... on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue brings a you a lighthearted Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history*. Beware of rabbit holes.
Today in baseball history:
- 1917 - After hearing that Gabby Street had caught a ball dropped off the Washington Monument in 1908, Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson brags that he could catch a ball dropped from an airplane at spring training, even though he is in his mid-50s and well above his playing weight. Robinson circles unsteadily under the descending spheroid. Instead, a grapefruit was secretly substituted and it explodes on impact with his glove. Once he feels the ooze, Robinson thinks it is blood, and screams that he is dying, until he tastes the juice. He later concedes that he probably would have been killed if a real baseball had been dropped from the plane. Aviatrix Ruth Law dropped the grapefruit as outfielder Casey Stengel assumed culpability for the switch. (1,2,3)
- 1943 - The major leagues approve a new official ball manufactured by the Spalding Company for the upcoming season. Instead of the usual combination of cork and rubber, the inside of the ball is made up of recycled cork and balata, materials not needed in the war effort. Officials insist the ball will have the resiliency of the 1939 ball, but the players will express dismay that they cannot drive the new ball and point out the dearth of runs and homers in 1942 even with the old ball. (2,3)
- 1953 - On the day that will become known as ‘Black Friday’ in Boston, Lou Perini announces he will seek permission from the National League to move his franchise to Milwaukee, home of the team’s top minor-league affiliate. The Braves owner cites poor attendance as the reason for asking to relocate the club, after spending 82 years in the New England city. (1)
- 1960 - The Chicago White Sox unveil an important uniform innovation. The Sox’s road uniforms feature players’ names on the backs of the jerseys, marking the first time that players’ names will appear on major league uniforms. The innovation will make it easier for fans watching games on television to identify the players on the field. The idea is yet another creation of colorful White Sox owner and innovator Bill Veeck. (1,3)
- 1969 - In addition to this year’s lower mound and tightened strike zone, Major League Baseball tries an experimental ball with 10% more resiliency for a spring training game between the Mets and Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. It has an all-rubber center instead of a cork and rubber core, and the seams are higher than the regular ball. Mets pitcher Don Cardwell surrenders three home runs in the 4th inning to Dick McAuliffe, Norm Cash, and Gates Brown in the Tigers’ 7 - 4 victory. Tomorrow, in Phoenix, Arizona, the same ball is used in the Giants’ 13 - 1 win over the Angels, with Bobby Bonds hitting the only two homers off George Brunet. The players agree the ball is definitely livelier and sounds louder coming off the bat. (3)
- Cubs birthdays: Mal Eason, Chippy Gaw, Eddie Butler. Also notable: Home Run Baker (HoF).
- (1) — The National Pastime.
- (2) — Today in Baseball History.
- (3) — Baseball Reference.
- (4) — Society for American Baseball Research.
- (5) — Baseball Hall of Fame.
- (6) — This Day in Chicago Cubs history.
*We try to vet each item. Please let us know if an item is in error, especially if you have a source.
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